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John Ortberg is the Senior Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California and is a frequent contributor to Leadership Journal. He is the bestselling author of If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, The Life You've Always Wanted and Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them. In his free time John enjoys hiking, surfing, tennis, reading and golf.


 
Christianbook.com: As a pastor how do you arrive at the topics you choose the topics you write about?

John Ortberg: It's a combination of looking at my own life. What do I need? What am I messing up? What interests me? What calls to me? And then knowing the people of our congregation. One of the things that I'll sometimes talk about is never to preach to a faceless crowd and to think of individuals; a single mom, an elderly man who's facing the end days of his life, a business woman who's on the fast track and consumed by the need for success, somebody in their twenties who's had a relationship break-up and wondering what's going to happen. To think about specific people and what they wrestle with, what are their dreams, what are their hopes, what are their fears…that's very helpful and then in addition just trying to listen to God and seeking to be in an open, discerning mode; to be receptive to what it seems what God wants to say.


 

Christianbook.com: Please take a moment to tell us what lead you to write When the Game is Over? Was there a particular need or truth about the Christian journey you felt Christians were missing?

John Ortberg: A huge one. I think most people find themselves drifting away from the life they really want to live. Most Christians want to know God. They want to have good relationships, they want to do good work, but we find ourselves falling so far short and we can't even say why. We miss what matters most in life because we just drift in the default mode.


 
Christianbook.com: Why did you choose the metaphor of gaming as a means of conveying the message in your most recent book?

John Ortberg: Well, I think what we're really dealing with are the very deep issues of the heart: how do you spend your life, how do you spend your time, how do you spend your money? What are you really invested in? We all tend to live in denial about that stuff because we're so caught up in being so busy and trying to be successful that we have a hard time seeing it. There are certain sins... like if you're lying you probably know about that, if you're committing adultery you probably know about that, but to be consumed with materialism, hurry and greed is so subtle, that it's very easy to miss. So there's something about that image of when you play a game like monopoly you can do really well at it, but it will end, and when it ends it all goes back in the box. That has a way of capturing people's hearts and sneaking up on them.

 

Christianbook.com: As a pastor how do you arrive at, or what inspires you to choose the topics you write about?

John Ortberg: It's a combination of looking at my own life. What do I need? What am I messing up? What interests me? What calls to me? And then knowing the people in our congregation. One of the things that I'll sometimes talk about in terms of preaching is never to preach to a faceless crowd. To think of individuals; a single mom, an elderly man who's facing the end days of his life, a business woman who's on the fast track and consumed by the need for success, or somebody in their twenties who's had a relationship break-up and wondering what's going to happen. To think about specific people and what they wrestle with, what are their dreams, what are their hopes, what are their fears…that's very helpful. And then in addition just trying to listen to God and seeking to be in an open, discerning mode; to be receptive to what it seems what God wants to say.


 

Christianbook.com: You mentioned not preaching to a faceless crowd. Are there times when one of your parishioners will come to you with an issue he or she is wrestling with, and then you find you have a topic?

John Ortberg: Absolutely. So many people talk about hurry, business, a general dull, chronic sense of regret that life seems to be slipping away, and they seem to be unable to do anything about it. That is really pervasive.


 

Christianbook.com: It seems that busyness is always going to be there. People always cite that as a reason and want to change but it almost makes you wonder, are people really trying to change?

John Ortberg: Well, that's a great question. You know there was that book by Hannah Arendt years ago, The Banality of Evil. She was talking about Nazi Germany but I think it's true in general that the things that are most dangerous often are the things that look simple, superficial or unimportant. I think the reason for that is if something is dramatically evil, most of us will avoid it. It's the subtle temptations that lure us away from God without making us feel like we're rejecting God, that are the most dangerous. And I think hurry is at the top of that list because not only does it generally not look like a serious problem, but we often take it as a badge of importance. If someone isn't over committed, over scheduled, busy, hurried, we think, "What's wrong with them?" as if people must not want them to do things, or they must not be a loser. It's very counter cultural.


 
Christianbook.com: In chapter 3 you share the story of a young, competitive pre-med student who was traveling abroad in the East. In his travels he met a guru who told him, "Don't you see you're poisoning your soul with this success-oriented way of life? Your idea of happiness is to stay up all night studying for an exam so you can get a better grade than your best friend. Your idea of a good marriage is not to find the woman who will match your soul, but to win the girl everybody else wants. That is not how we are supposed to live. Come join us in an atmosphere where we all share and love one another." How well would you say the church has done in fostering a community where "…all share and love one another?"

John Ortberg: I think in general we fall so far short of what God wants community to look like, and that's the pain that so many of us experience around the church and I say that if somebody loves the church and is a leader in the church. But the reality is we all have this dream about community connectedness and so, but it requires a different kind of person. There's a quote from T.S. Elliot where he says that the problem with the human race is that we all want a system that is so perfect that it does not require us to be good. So there's this illusion that there is some system out there and it could be an economic system, a political utopia or we could have that same idea about the church, that there could be (or should be) somewhere out there, there is a church where it's structure, governance, preaching, teaching, whatever, such a great system that I can experience great community without going through the pain of having to be transformed myself. And of course there is no system like that.


 

Christianbook.com: Not having to be transformed themselves . . . that's kind of the bottom line there. Again, it seems there's this feeling of people wanting to change but they don't really want to try enough to make it happen.

John Ortberg: Well, community is a perfect example. It's talked about more and more and we want it, but we don't want to give up our independence. I'll see folks in their twenties and the idea of community is so captivating. So often if you're in churches and that age group, they won't talk about the church they'll talk about "our community." Like, "This is a member of our community." However, when you look at the reality of the group, the word community has been cheapened enormously because their commitment to it can be quite low, and they don't want to give up freedom. So someone may attend it for a year but then decide that there's some other place that's more exciting and switch over to there. The language of community has been inflated but the experience of it has actually lessened because we don't want to pay the price. We'll tend to romanticize the notion of community. Now throughout history most people have lived in one spot. If they're at a church, they're at that church their whole life long. There's a much deeper level of commitment there but it doesn't look very romantic, not very glamorous.


 

Christianbook.com: In the closing paragraphs of the 3rd chapter you mention that the most Godlike thing a Christian can do is to serve one another in self-giving love. Yet there are countless leadership and self help books available on the Christian market today that embrace models of success and affluence. In your opinion why do you believe that churches who earnestly follow after Christ, choose to embrace success and business-like growth models? What teachings do these churches need to do revise/abandon in order to enter into the practice of servant hood amidst their brothers and the local community?

John Ortberg: I think the issue is an issue of servant hood. Business or the language of business, I think can get slammed by church leaders in inappropriate ways. I think all spheres are claimed by God including business. I think that business, work life, the marketplace, can be very, very good. God wants to redeem it and I think that there's an awful lot of that happens in the business world that the church can appropriately, legitimately and should learn from. I think part of what happens in the business world, because of the way things work economically, the feedback loop is real strong and real quick. So for instance, here at CBD, if you're not serving your customers well, you'll find out about that. You'll work hard to try and find what are ways to measure it and how do we know if we're winning or losing at it. And that's not all bad. So sometimes churches are very bad at serving, either the people who are at the church, or people who are in their neighborhoods, but we're less aware of that fact than people who are in the business community and it would be good for us to learn from the business community how we can track how well we are serving.

Now the danger is if we adopt a measure of effectiveness that's around visibility, grandiosity, human ego, visible success for human applause, then we're dead. But I'd submit the same thing's true in a business; that if a business is really functioning in a way that would honor God, at the heart is going to be a group of people who have…there's…Dallas Willard says that work is the creation of value, and this can happen with any church or with any business. And if our sincere desire is to create value and to contribute to Shalom, that's a very good thing. So I think the temptation in the church world is not to become more like the business world, it is the same temptation that is faced in the business world. And this is to opt for ego, grandiosity, self aggrandizement instead of God-dependent servant hood and the creation of value for the world.


 

Christianbook.com: Would it be correct to say that these two entities, in and of themselves, aren't particularly bad but they share the same, aspirations to fame and glory?

John Ortberg: When our hearts get disordered, which can happen in the business or church community, and because the church and business community are all part of the same culture, it's probably to be expected to succumb to the same kind of temptations in a given era of history.


 

Christianbook.com: On page 64 of your book you mention that it is only when we realize the goodness of God that we can unconditionally surrender our status as "master of the board." You note here that in fully surrendering ourselves to God that we open ourselves to God's blessing. What might you say to those who have fully surrendered to the Lord, yet experience little resulting blessing? I'm thinking of the recent article in Time where we see Mother Theresa describing a kind of Dark Night of the Soul for the last 40 years of her life.

John Ortberg: I've read through that article and it's very powerful and very poignant and very sobering. Certainly for folks, Richard Dawkins, for instance, slammed Mother Theresa very hard, which struck me among other things, as not good strategy. If you're going to go after somebody don't go after Mother Theresa. I don't think the guy is going to win a lot of converts to his cause. But one of the things that it does, that her story I think does, is to severe any easy connection or formula that we can tend to want to create in the Christian world, that says follow these four easy steps and then you will be filled with spiritual vitality and always happy. I think part of what it gets to is there's a difference between being in a state of blessedness and experiencing and being aware of blessedness. I think that anyone that looks at Mother Theresa's life would say that it was a conduit for enormous blessing in the world and that's a wonderful thing. It came for her at a cost of experiencing an awful lot of darkness and difficulty but it would be better to experience the darkness and difficulty and be a great blessing, than to feel happy and connected but be a curse to the people around you. Now the best of all would be to both be a blessing and feel a blessing but I think part of what Mother Theresa reflects on herself is we can't control that. Even my own inward emotional experience is one of those things I have to let go like the helium balloon. I cannot make it come to be a certain way. It is possible, nobody knows, and she reflects on this, that maybe through her experience of that darkness her own suffering created within her a capacity to help, to empathize, to be with suffering people that created a blessing for them that would not have been there otherwise.


 

Christianbook.com: Have you read much of Dawkins? If so what do you make of him?

John Ortberg: Yes…The God Delusion and bits of other things. As I read him, there will be parts of what he says that I find myself in agreement with. He'll write about how he gets frustrated and offended when religious people for instance in the name of Christianity don't do good careful science, don't want to think about science, and want to claim that they know more even though they haven't studied it. I'll read through that and think that that's a great point and a lot of times in the church we either misunderstand science or misunderstand the Scriptures, we think there's a conflict when there really isn't. We get arrogant and pretentious and offensive in the way that we communicate stuff. So sometimes I'll read things and think that's a good point, and wish in the church we handled better the way that we think and communicate differently. Then there'll be other parts where he's just lashing out and I think it's so ludicrous that it's not really going to convince anybody except somebody who's already on that far side of the page anyhow. Alvin Plantinga who's a philosopher said that part of Dawkins problem is that he hasn't read much philosophy or theology and Plantinga says, "I would call his philosophizing sophomoric except it would be an insult to sophomores."


 

Christianbook.com: That's very interesting. I'm finding out more and more that there are Christians who are influenced by writers outside of Christendom, and I think we tend to be a bit arrogant at times when we start to think that God will only use Christians to reveal truth.

John Ortberg: It's an interesting thing, I remember when a book came out by a contemporary Christian author, and a leader of a large Christian organization, his blurb on the book was, "This was the best Christian book that I have read." Everybody in our immediate sub-culture would immediately understand from that quote that he was not, when he thought about a Christian author, referring to people like Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy even though they were obviously Christians, or even Augustine. We will use the word Christian as code language for our own little Christian sub-culture and we're not even aware that we're doing it, let alone being aware of how misunderstood or offensive it may well be to folks who are Christian, or consider themselves Christian but not part of the evangelical subculture. That we are just trying to appropriate that title for ourselves. A Catholic theologian, Michael Novak, said that doubt isn't so a much dividing line that separates people as it is a razors edge that runs through every soul. In our sub-culture we can tend to focus in on who's in and who's out and separating us into two camps and we miss out on all the messiness and complexity of the humanity in everybody.


 

Christianbook.com: Another chapter in the "Setup" section, which I really appreciated, addresses the amount of "stuff" we collect or gather over the course of our lives. Keeping in mind that in the end it all goes back in the box, it is rather ironic to note that some of the most successful Christian books today conclude that God desires to bless us with more "stuff" through prosperity. What advice might you offer to someone in your congregation who greatly desires for the Lord to bless them with "more stuff"?

John Ortberg: I would want to talk with them about desiring greater blessing. Augustine said that the problem with the human race is the disordered heart, that we love the wrong thing to the wrong extent with the wrong kind of love. So to help people understand, I would want to try to help people understand about what does it means to live with a well ordered heart. It's not bad to love stuff, God made stuff, stuff is good and that's part of why we love it, but when our love is disordered that's when we start to covert and it never leads to satisfaction. When have you ever known a selfish, content person? I would try to help people think it through and see where that leads and what matters more.


 

Christianbook.com: I think one of my favorite quotes comes out of Chapter 11 where you state, "One of the great illusions of our day is that we can have Jesus' life without following Jesus' way." Christ also stated "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Keeping in mind your quote and Jesus' words, do you believe Christians in America have adopted a sense of entitlement, or perhaps lost sight of the overall goal? I think of non-tangible things such as always needing a cup of coffee in the morning or or gasoline for our vehicles…do you think we've developed a sense of entitlement here?

John Ortberg: It's in the air. We experience it so deeply and just when you look at founding statements like, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The pursuit of happiness has become that to which we feel entitled. So that if we don't find ourselves happy, we look around for someone to sue. Somebody has let us down, or our church has let us down, or God has let us down. So I think that stuff is deeply in the air but then part of that solution isn't simply to say, "stop pursuing stuff or stop pursuing happiness" because it's not just that Jesus calls us to die, He does, but if we don't know what our life is going to lead to, then we'll never be able to let go of the life that we know. The death to self that we're called to is always the death of a lesser, smaller, meaner life, for the sake of the grasping of a bigger, better, truer and deeper life. It's always a death that leads to a better life and it looks like a sacrifice, and it feels like a sacrifice, and it is a sacrifice but it's for the pearl of great price. It's not a heroic thing to give up all that you have for that pearl because all that you have isn't worth one one-thousandth of that pearl. But you will have to change for that pearl to become valuable to you.


 

Christianbook.com: Later in the book, you tell the story of your participation in a non-church related men’s outing. You describe the weekend as being a kind of, "release-the-wild-hairy-warrior-within-you" type of event. Toward the end of the experience you describe an exercise where all of the men in the group are required to share openly and candidly about their sex lives. You state, Men stood and spoke about regrets, shame, failure and hurts with the most unguarded honesty I had ever seen…I wondered why this happened more transparently in a secular setting with total strangers than I have ever seen it happen in decades of church life. Why do you believe this kind of transparency so rarely happens within the church today? What does the church need to do in order to begin implementing this sort of honesty?

John Ortberg: You know I think it's always a struggle. In our society impression management and image control are such huge issues, it's like we're all our own P.R. people, we're all trying to spin all the time and it's very hard to overcome that. In some ways I think it's harder in the church than on the outside because in the church we have this life that we aspire to. So for instance, last night we were with a couple we've known recently and they just bought this huge enormous house, but as they talked about it, they didn't say, "We bought this because golly this is a big stinking house, we'd love to own a great big house." What they said was that the Lord called us to buy this house and told us that we'd be using it for ministry and we'd be having a lot of people over from the church. It turned out that he was right. He really didn't want to but he bought it because God guided him to it and it's just become this great tool for ministry. So in addition to the greed and materialism we experience with everyone else, we add to it a layer of hypocrisy and deceit - even self-deceit. And I really think a lot of it is that we aspire to something that's really good but because applause goes a long way those aspirations or the achievement of them, we will actually deceive ourselves and give ourselves credit for being much better than what we actually are, and often times folks outside the church community can at least be honest about the reality. We adopt this veneer of spiritual language around stuff. There'll be people who don't like me, they'll criticize me, but then their comment at the end of their jabs will be, "but we love you in the Lord." What does it mean to love someone in the Lord? What it actually means to love people with God's kind of love as God helps us to do it. So it's actually a very costly sacrificial love. But what we'll do is . . . there will be somebody who I don't like, and I don't speak well of them and I don't want good things for them and I don't help them but then I look at myself and I say "I'm a Christian, so even though I'm experiencing all these emotions, I have to love them because I'm a Christian, so this must be loving them in the Lord." It's just like this magic language that has no content but enables me to think I'm being spiritual, when at least if I'm outside that community I can be honest and say, "I don't like that guy."


Part of what happens when people get honest is that the world doesn't come to an end. And when you name it, then you can take a look at it. And then I can say, well part of why I don't like you may simply be that there's stuff that you do that I don't like. Part of it is that there's junk inside me, that when you do those things, it activates that junk. Partly I judge you because I'm jealous of you, partly it may tap into issues I had with my parents or siblings and so I'm not necessarily stuck there forever. And there's even something good about saying, I don't like you when it gets named, it produces a certain kind of energy to try to change that situation. Whereas if it never gets named, it can just spiral into darker and darker places.

In some ways the weekend was very manipulative, so it produced very powerful insights and very powerful encounters but in ways that were not always necessarily healthy. That's another thing that you sometimes have to be careful of. You can use techniques to try to produce emotional or relational experiences and they may be real powerful and they may even do good but they may not be wise.

 

Christianbook.com: You devote a chapter to "Collecting the Right Trophies." Please take a moment to describe what these trophies consist of and how we can go about implementing this.

John Ortberg: The trophy image was powerful to me because I grew up playing tennis and going to tennis tournaments and if you made it to the finals you get a trophy. That was like a big deal and I always wanted the trophies. And it's kind of the picture for the rewards that you get when you win a game. There's a distinction, C.S. Lewis talks about it, that I think is really helpful between an intrinsic reward and an extrinsic reward. If I want to marry a woman, for instance, if she is wealthy and I want to marry her for her money, that's an extrinsic reward. That's mercenary and ultimately will be hollow. Now if I want to marry her because I just find that I love her so much and I want to be with her, there's a reward that's attached to that marriage also, but it's intrinsic. Going to school . . . if i'm trying to learn for the joy of good grades, that's extrinsic, if I'm trying to learn because there's a joy in learning, that intrinsic, it can't really be taken away from you. The Bible has a lot to say about rewards. People often misunderstand it because in trying to talk about spiritual reality the Bible will use images, metaphors and stories. Well, people will start to take those literally and think about crowns as if we're going to be wearing these great hats, and houses as if we're going to living in these tract mansions instead of understanding that that's about being home, being part of a community, giving worship and honor. And so to look forward to the rewards that God offers is really good but it's helpful to understand that they are rewards are intrinsic to life with God and his kingdom.


 
Christianbook.com: You know the words Jesus spoke when he said "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul," that was kind in the back of my mind as I read the book, as sort of a theme verse. If there was one verse that could go with When the Game is Over... would you say that verse would be it?

John Ortberg: It does very much go with the book and part of what's helpful in thinking about that verse is that . . . I use to think about it in terms of it doesn't to any good to be successful on earth and go to hell. But when Jesus talks about your soul, he's talking about something different than more than going to the bad place to get tortured. The loss of soul has to do with the inability to actually experience the joys of intrinsic rewards. The inability to delight in God, the inability to delight in generosity or servant hood, all of those are lost to the soul. And we see that going on with other people and we see it in ourselves. The lostness of the soul is a process that you can watch at work. It's not God saying, "I'm going to assign you to the punishing place because you didn't believe the right stuff about me." A lost soul is incapable of experiencing life. That's what it means to be lost.


 
Christianbook.com: Now in the Bible when the man asks Jesus, "What must I do to receive eternal life?" and Jesus says to him "Go sell all your possessions and give to the poor," would you say that particular instruction is something we should all aspire to?

John Ortberg: Not in a literal way. But what Jesus does do with individuals is to put a finger on what's keeping you from experiencing this kingdom kind of life. And then to actually take concrete action in that area is really important. I grew up in the kind of church where I can remember guys whom we all knew wrestled with materialism and greed. And they would talk in a real pious way and say things like, "I sat down in my office and wrote down on a sheet everything I owned, my houses, my money, my stocks and even my kids and I signed it over to God," and said, "Lord it's all Yours." But then they were just as greedy and materialistic with it all. Then you add to the normal greed and materialism the sense that they got all emotional at how devoted they were because they had gone through this act of signing it over to God on paper, that didn't really mean anything. While to actually give a dollar to somebody is a more powerful step than to sign it all over to God when the reality is you're holding on to it all to yourself.


 

Christianbook.com: Between shepherding your congregation and writing books what are some books you enjoy reading in your free time? Are there any artists, authors or mentors who have been influential to the development of your own faith?

John Ortberg: Well, certainly at the top of the list for faith development, Dallas Willard. He's just been a huge influence and I often think of my ministry as a kind of Dallas for Dummies. Because he's not just brilliant but kind of lives in the reality of the kingdom like hardly anyone I know. And I'll tell you the book that's influenced me more than any other book besides the Bible is his book The Spirit of Disciplines. So I'd recommend that to folks who enjoy reading, but I'd recommend you read it very slowly, it's quite dense. It doesn't use technical language but it's like an iceberg; you read a sentence and you need to just sit to unpack the thought for a while. And another thing, as long as we're talking about books, something that Dallas said to me one time when it comes to reading is aim at depth not breadth. If you aim at depth you'll get breadth thrown in. If you aim at breadth you will neither get depth or breadth. And so to find a few people who really feed you and read them over and over again, rather than having stacks of stuff that you haven't read yet, and you're skimming it all, it's one of the most important disciplines when it comes to reading. So I'd really encourage folks to do that. And Dallas has certainly been one of those folks for me.

C.S. Lewis is another one on faith development. Frederick Buechner, N.T. Wright. There's a guy whose written mostly little articles that you have to dig up, but it's just great stuff, particularly for preaching, named Ken Bailey. Then there's Anne Lamont, I enjoy reading her immensely both for her thoughts and the way she writes. Pat Conroy is a novelist whom I love. He wrote The Prince of Tides, which i think is extravagantly well written, Lords of Discipline, I love the The Great Santini. Very powerful. There's also Beach Music and the Water is Wide I love his characters, I love the power that he writes with, and his observations. I think his humor can be really, really funny and the next moment he can just rip your heart out. I love history and biography a lot and I'm a big Lincoln fan, so I'm always reading a Lincoln book. And it's fun to make connections.


You know one of the big debates in the Emerging Church movement is the notion of propositional truth and how that relates to experiential truth and what's the role of narrative theology and preaching. All of that stuff is very interesting to me and I love narrative. I love storytelling and I find that there's a lot of churches where there is kind of an arid approach to getting people to affirm propositional truth that can be off base. But I was reading a book called Lincoln's Sword recently, and one of the things that struck me was a line in the Gettysburg Address that I had never thought of before, where he says "Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." And that notion, the equality of the human race, is probably more traceable to Scripture and to the Apostle Paul in particular than any other source. It is a proposition. "All people are created equal." "For God so loved the World," - that is a proposition. So it was interesting in reading that book thinking about. . . I recently also have been listening to a talk by an Emergent author who said that propositions can be good. But it was basically that they can keep us from entering into heresy. And I thought when I was reading the Lincoln deal, that they are much more important than just being about heresy-avoidance. Lincoln told us that our nation was dedicated to a proposition – the equality of the human race. And a war is being fought to see if that's true.

 
Christianbook.com: Do you have any upcoming books we can look forward to?

John Ortberg: Yes, this next book I'm working on is "Faith and Doubt" and one slice of that which is kind of helpful is to think about three different kinds of convictions. "Public Convictions," or what do I want other people to think I believe. An example would be Herod saying to the wise men, "When you find the child come tell me so I can go worship Him." He didn't believe that, but it was a public conviction. He wanted people to think he believed it. A second kind of conviction is a "Private Conviction." That's where I think I believe something, but it turns out to be fickle. Peter says to Jesus, "Even if everybody else leaves you, I will never leave you." Was he sincere? Yep! Was it true? No. And then there's a third kind of conviction, a core conviction, which is revealed by what I do. It's part of my mental map about the way things are. So I believe that fire will burn me if I touch it. I believe in the law of gravity. I don't have to say to myself, "I'm going to really get myself to believe in the law of gravity," I don't have to work to not step off a ten story building. You never contradict your ideas about the way things are. You never contradict your core convictions. What Jesus was interested in was changing our core convictions about the way things are. That's really where faith has power, and that's where, when you talk about faith and works being connected, as James says…he's not saying we ought to work harder. He's making an observation about human nature. If you believe in the law of gravity and your purpose is to survive, you're not going to step off a ten story building. Now if you believe in the law of gravity and your purpose is to die, then you will. You're actions will always reflect your core convictions about the way things are.

Now, I think one of the difficulties with propositional truth isn't with the propositions, it's with us. And often times in churches I think part of what the emerging generation is objecting to is churches that spend a lot of time getting people to affirm propositions. And it may be a public conviction, it may even be a private conviction, but it is not a core conviction. So you take somebody who is real big on the inerrancy of Scripture, and you take one statement in scripture, "It is better to give than to receive." And they clearly do not believe that it is better to give than to receive, and you can tell by what they do with their stuff. And yet they claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Then it starts to get interesting. What does it mean to actually believe that all of the Scripture is true if by your behavior, you are clearly indicating that you do not believe that it is better to give than to receive? Do you really believe that the Scriptures are inerrantly reliable? Well, publicly you do, privately you may, but at the most important level you don't. And I think that's part of where there are objections to, or criticisms of, an exaggerated emphasis on propositional truth. But I'd say the problem isn't with the proposition. It's with us. And the fact that we don't even know, what it really means to believe it's true. Propositional truth is fundamental. It is indispensable and it is not just about avoiding some thing called heresy. It really matters whether or not "all people are created equal." It really matters whether or not "God so loves the world." It really matters whether or not "It's better to give than to receive." Those are all propositions.


You know you can start by looking at stuff you already know, where it's real clear and ask "Am I willing to live as if what Jesus said is true." I grew up in a church where we would ask people "Have you trusted Jesus?" But what we meant by that was "Do you believe the right thing about His death so that they have to let you into Heaven when you die?" Well, the New Testament doesn't use the word "trust" that way. In the New Testament when the question is "Do you trust Jesus?" it is "Do you think He's right?" Right about what? Right about whatever He said. And what matters again isn't just "What do I think my private conviction is?" It is, am I willing to live as if what He said was true?

"Faith and Doubt" is not a book on apologetics, it really is about how faith works and how does doubt work. It talks about when doubt is constructive and when it can become destructive. How do i live in faith even when i have doubts? Understanding that faith involves both belief, or estimates of certainty, and commitment. So I can never choose to believe in something. There's an involuntary dimension to belief, like contemplating "I think it's going to rain tomorrow," or "I think it's not going to rain tomorrow." But I can choose what I will commit to. So I want to help people understand it is possible to be a person of faith when you have doubts. In fact, it's only possible to have faith when there's doubt. If there's no more doubt then you know you don't have faith anymore. So the book gets into all that stuff and i'm very excited about it.

 

Christianbook.com: Thank you for taking some free moments to speak with us about your new book, John. We appreciate your thoughts and insights on keeping Christ the central focus of our spiritual lives.


 

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